Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Wellmark Building Receives LEED® Platinum Environmental Rating

Wellmark Blue Cross and Blue Shield’s corporate office in Des Moines has received LEED® Platinum certification from the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC), which makes it the only LEED Platinum certified office building of its size in the world.

“Achieving LEED Platinum is a tremendous accomplishment for both Wellmark and the entire state of Iowa. Companies like Wellmark that achieve LEED certification prove that there is good reason to build to this level of energy efficiency,” says Iowa Governor Terry E. Branstad. “Wellmark’s headquarters is a comfortable and efficient building, and a welcome addition to the landscape. LEED certified buildings represent a significant economic development opportunity for Iowa workers and companies.”
“At a time when health care costs continue to rise, which results in higher premiums for our members, it is a business imperative to continue to manage and reduce administrative expenses. Our building was designed from the start to lower administrative costs, be environmentally responsible, promote wellness, and improve productivity,” says John D. Forsyth, Wellmark’s Chairman and CEO. “Even more important, moving from five buildings, where we rented space, to this building, is a long-term investment that will save money for our members in the future.”

Building will pay for itself in 10 years through administrative savings
Wellmark set a goal to reduce administrative expenses by five percent on an ongoing basis, as a direct result of efficiencies gained by moving to this building.

“Cost and paybacks were heavily weighted in every decision concerning Wellmark’s building,” says Dave Southwell, Wellmark Chief Financial Officer. “Without convincing calculations to back them up, this building would not have been built. We expect the building will pay for itself in approximately 10 years. We’ve already realized $10 million in savings, which is halfway to our five percent goal.”

Estimated Environmental savings include:
    • Over 20 percent savings in energy costs per year
    • Maximum daylight harvesting reduces need for artificial lighting and minimizes heat gain from lights
    • The ventilation system provides fresh air without an increase in energy use
  • WATER:
    • 55 percent reduction in overall water use, saving 2.4 million gallons of drinkable water or enough to fill a bathtub 67,000 times
    • Recycled rainwater collection in the underground cistern used for irrigation of landscaping and toilet flushing
    • Moved two existing buildings from construction site to new location
    • Nearly 2.5 million pounds of construction waste was recycled and kept out of the landfill
    • Products such as carpet, chairs and furniture are made from recycled materials, or from elements that are recyclable
    • 40 percent less copy and fax machines. Saving 800 boxes of paper (an entire truckload), 200 toner cartridges and $200,000 per year
A win for the community
LEED Platinum certification is a community-wide effort that required multiple groups to unite toward a common goal. Wellmark’s positive working relationships with the state, the city, and the construction team played a major role in the building’s success. Receiving Platinum certification is a tribute to over 1100 construction trade workers, contractors and architects who made it a reality.
“Wellmark’s headquarters is a great example of how businesses and the city can work together to create a win for the entire community,” says Des Moines Mayor Frank Cownie. “We’re pleased Wellmark chose to stay in downtown Des Moines, and thrilled their facility has achieved the highest environmental standards.
“The Central Iowa Building and Construction Trade Council – comprised of 19 affiliated trade unions representing over 5000 skilled tradesman throughout Central Iowa – appreciated the opportunity to showcase our craftsmanship in this landmark facility,” says Robert Gilmore, Secretary Treasurer of the Council. “This project put food on the table for many local families in a rough economy, and we hope it’s just the beginning of a green revolution in Iowa construction.”
What does it mean to be “LEED certified?”
To gauge just how "green" organizations' buildings are, USGBC established the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED®) green building certification program, which provides a third-party tool for validating a construction project’s green features, while also verifying that a structure is operating as efficiently as possible based on its design.
LEED designation works on a point system where projects earn points for satisfying specific green building criteria that fall into one of six categories:
  • Sustainable sites
  • Water efficiency
  • Energy and atmosphere
  • Materials and resources
  • Indoor environmental quality
  • Innovation in Design
The number of points a project earns determines the level of LEED certification the project receives. The four levels are Certified, Silver, Gold, and Platinum. Wellmark earned all of its submitted points to attain Platinum status.

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